Today I was learning about on solar plants, how the projects are funded, the assets are created, exploded and managed. The technology aspect of the solar panels is not the key focus today, it’s how the asset is managed into a regulatory environment that is evolving.
The asset management of major assets as oil and gas, eolic or solar plants is a very closed market, where you have to be very well connected to be able to grab a contract.
Value Chain Mapping: Solar Plants Asset Management
The main stakeholders:
- Banks: they are adding around 70%-80% of the funds, and they continually claim reports and evidences that their investment is progressing well.
- Investors: they are adding around 20%-30% of the funds, and they continually claim reports and evidences that their investment is progressing well.
Authorities: per country, per state, local authorities… the governments are raising new regulations that are basically rules that enable the solar plant to operate and sell the electricity in a very tricky market.
- Account manager: person in charge of providing the customer the service.
- Asset Manager: person in charge of the day to day operations in the asset management company. The ideal profile is a very organized person with knowledge of asset management and ability to handle with many type of people.
The concepts on the map:
- Physical maintenance: it’s very mature, the specialization is easy to acquire, and the learning curve is not a stopper. To increase the skills of a electric engineer on solar panels is not complex.
Operations & Maintenance: there are so many companies specialized on this field. The data is typically taken from SCADA, and exploded on upper layers. To take a relevant O&M operator is key, fundamentally to obtain the funds. On top of that you build additional O&M deliverables adapted to your needs. These needs are now becoming a standard, but each one depends on where they come from. The ability to capture data from SCADAS is key on your O&M. The use of dashboards, alarms, incident management, preventive maintenance, basic data analysis, forecast is already a very mature area. So many companies provide these services since so much years ago, as they were covering in the past gas and oil customers, doing almost the same thing. For these companies, to add eolic or solar customers is not a big deal.
Data analysis: here is one of the areas of evolution where you can use machine learning techniques to find points of efficiency, track new scenarios and adapt yourself to new business requirements.
- New regulatory requirements are one of the major challenges in terms of this industry. The right election of the O&M is key to be compliance, and its ability to adapt to every country/estate regulation is key to continue having the right to operate.
- From traditional billing to billing per XXX, where XXX could be hours, days… The electric companies acquiring the electricity are adopting new ways of procurement to adapt to legislation, hence solar plants has to adapt too.
Use of drones, and other technologies (for instance more sensors connected to the existing SCADA) for increasing the efficiency of the plant are things to explore (for instance therm-cameras to identify the right level of work of the panels). Here the alternatives are large in number and not clear in terms of ROI.
Companies offering these services
Around this industry a lot of companies have grown, some of the focused on the technology, other focused on the business. All of them with something in common: they are working with one or two investing companies.
Traditionally the energy market has always working on looking for the best synergies to understand how other players are contributing to the market with their energy (oil, gas, eolic, coal…). Ok, but what contribution?, for sure the one that influences the price.
The generation, transport and storage of energy contributes to the price of the energy and defines the futures market. New type of energies as solar and eolic that are starting to have impact in the major markets will also have to learn how to maximize their prices (in those countries where the regulation allow it).
For 2019-2020 some of the companies will be able to systematically maximize their efficiency analyzing the electric market prices and react according to the best “move”.
Someone could tell me, “well, we always looked to the energy market, analyzed it and try to react to the best move”.
I agree, the difference is I see machine learning making deeper analysis that enable to make decisions in a different way.